Craig — Compelled to show support for a fellow veteran he'd never met, Craig veteran Will Montgomery strapped on his walking shoes Saturday morning and decided to walk from Craig to Hayden in order to raise awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Joining him for the 17.5 mile trek to the neighboring town was co-worker and veteran Tracy Santistevan. The two men work for the Mine Safety and Health Administration office in Craig.
"I've been wanting to do something for a long time… and said, I should just do this walk," Montgomery said. "Cory (Hixson) is having a hard time and I should just do it to let Cory know he's not the only one."
Hixson is a long-time Craig resident that moved to the Front Range for better access to Veteran's Affairs healthcare, and recently suffered a traumatic PTSD-related episode due to a change in medications.
"Honestly I've never met him," Montgomery said, but "once you start doing things like that, it just shows people you care a little bit more."
Montgomery, a Veterans of Foreign Wars member who served 18.5 years in the U.S. Army, and Santistevan, who served eight years in the Army, left on foot from the VFW at 7 a.m. Saturday. VFW member Johnny Garcia tailed them in a vehicle to provide water and extra visibility.
The small entourage inadvertently collected $85 in unsolicited donations during their walk from onlookers who wanted to offer their support. Montgomery will send the donations to the Hixson family, and will match the amount with his own money.
"Tears came to my eyes," Garcia said when the donations started rolling in unexpectedly. "I never had anything like this happen before… I was proud of these guys."
Montgomery is currently working towards a degree in psychology at Colorado Northwestern Community College and wants to offer free counseling to local veterans.
"Making it from veteran to veteran, it makes it easier for them to talk to," he said. "Being a veteran who deals with (PTSD and TBI), it's not just hard on you, your friends, your family, it's hard on everyone, it's hard on your entire life… You start to feel like you're alone, that no one understands."
The men concluded the event with a beer at the Yampa Valley Brewing Company in Hayden. Montgomery said he intends to make this an annual event.
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1795 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBNews.